As we wait for the vaccine to arrive, we are slowly & cautiously taking steps to return back to our offices. Staying safe, wearing a mask at all times, and occasionally cleaning our hands is the new reality of the post-pandemic world. Although many of us have individually accustomed ourselves to obsessive cleaning habits, it is still of paramount importance to NOT discount the safety considerations at our workplace. Rather, companies today need to add health & safety considerations alongside cost, team cohesion, and productivity. To ensure a smooth transition into a new world, companies need to rearrange and reimagine some aspects of their workplace - both physical and cultural. Physical barriers, visual mobility, and usability cues are actionable changes that, when paired with organizational, cultural, and individual contributions, will foster employee health and a sense of security. Here are some visible steps that can be implemented to instill discipline and promote safety at the workplace.
1. Install individual partitions and dividers
Many offices do not necessarily have a partition between employees, especially the open plan ones. But soon, the sneeze guard would take the position of a must-have addition to your office workstation. Suggested options could be a Plexiglass barrier which allows you the transparency to see your colleague while providing guard against their direct droplets. Temporary Plexiglass shields can also be placed in conference rooms or in hallways to separate people and maintain social distancing guidelines. Another popular & cost-effective option would be to use fabric wrapped MDF screens. The idea is to avoid the possibility of direct exchange of infected droplets by shielding face-to-face communication.
In case of hallways, even makeshift dividers such as storage cabinets or shelves can be placed in order to render a one-way pass and avoid awkward clashing of employees. A point to note is that the partition material should be easily cleanable and non-conducive to the growth of virus as they can continue to live on hard surfaces and therefore be transferred by touching those surfaces. Regular disinfection of office furniture should do the job!
2. Rearrange existing office furniture (& also employees)
One of the essential measures to take is to rearrange existing office furniture to enforce staggered seating and ensure they comply with social distancing norms. This is where modular office furniture can come in handy as they are more flexible and can be placed anywhere relatively easily. If space permits, employees’ desks should be placed six feet apart from each other, while other furniture can be rearranged or even removed to add more space. Social distancing can be enforced further with visual design cues to enforce the six-foot rule. A staggered workforce may become standard, with smaller groups coming in on alternate days and shifts that avoid transport rush-hour peaks.
3. Use Visual Cues to constantly remind employees
Visual cues are signals that allow employees to act with certainty, support organizational requirements, and mandate social responses in an environment where uncertainty and stress may be higher than normal. They act as reminders for the viewers to follow safety recommendations and protocols. In today’s technological world, visual cues can come in the form of pop-ups notifications, e-mails and chats to remind you periodically about social distancing, masks, and facts related to COVID-19. Printed signages such as “keep walking”, “maintain distance”, “Don’t handshake” etc can be used. Arrows to indicate orientation of walkways; social distancing circles at the coffee machine or toilet, entry-exit signs at the entrances, can serve to follow and avoid unintended meetings.
Whatever happens in the months ahead, even if a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available, it seems likely that the experience of living through a pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on the way we work and how our workplaces function. We hope these considerations can support the balance of business continuity and the safety of workers everywhere. If you are looking for post-pandemic office furniture in Pune, Mumbai, Bengaluru for your office visit the HNI India website today to know your options. HNI India is one of the leading office furniture manufacturers in the country.